Four terrible rationales for Russia's war
The standard defenses of Russia's February escalation requires us to throw multiple left arguments against war under the bus.
Arguments on the left over the war in Ukraine seem, at this point, to fall into one of two categories. The first doesn’t go much further than identifying who the imperial power is and calling for anti-imperialists to proceed accordingly; I took that line of argument on a while back. The second judges the war on more conventional moral and legal grounds; this is what I’ll engage with here.
The Russian Federation and its partisans have actually advanced several distinct rationales for the February escalation, but in practice you’ll find that arguments about them proceed like a game of whack-a-mole. Knock one down, and another will pop up, and then another; eventually, you’ll find yourself relitigating the ones you already took on. In this post I’ll address each of them seperately, and encourage readers to try to engage in these debates systematically, focusing them on one claim at a time; but outside of a formal setting, this is always a difficult-to-impossible task.
One more preliminary: the case against Russia from a liberal perspective has been laid out ad nauseum in dozens of mainstream publications. This post is going to do something different. Here, I am granting as correct several of Russia’s claims: that Ukraine is home to a significant movement of neo-Nazis; that Russia’s fear of encirclement by NATO through Ukrainian accession is justified; that Ukraine is responsible for thousands of deaths in Donetsk and Luhansk; and that Western powers played a significant role in overthrowing Ukraine’s legitimate government in 2014. Conceding all of this, I insist that the February escalation remains unjustified.